Formal NIU hockey season might not happen until August

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Erin Ledyard | Courtesy NIU Hockey

NIU salutes the fans after its 3-2 win over Maryville University on Feb. 29, 2020 at Canlan Ice Sports in West Dundee.

Kyle Mathas

DeKALB — The 2021 NIU hockey season has been restricted to only in-state Division 1 programs for Spring 2021. 

NIU hockey president Justin Garr said the season will be played with some restrictions. The team will still practice and look for teams to play in-state due to the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It is not necessarily postponed because we are still practicing and still looking for opponents to play,” Garr said. “It’s not going to be official games but more like scrimmages.”

Garr said the team is looking to possibly play schools like Illinois State University, Bradley University and Robert Morris University. The team’s front office is trying its best to schedule scrimmages for the players to keep them ready for the next season, which is expected to start in August.

“We had to make a decision and it has to happen sometimes where you don’t get what you want,” Garr said. “The world has tried to shut all of us down this year so it can’t just be us out there playing.”

Some of the NIU hockey players are graduating in the spring, which essentially negates their final hockey season as a Huskie. Garr said there are two seniors on the team who could possibly come back for the next season.

“It’s tough for the players, and they tend to lose motivation when not playing,” Garr said. “But to practice again, get back out on the ice again and to hang out with the other players again, it’s a great feeling for them.”

During the shut down of NIU hockey in 2020, the NIU hockey program let go former Head Coach Brad Stoffers and brought in Nick Madonia as interim head coach for the 2021 season. Madonia coached the Division 3 program of NIU hockey and brought them to two league championships. 

The official season will not start until potentially August and will go through March 2022, Garr said. The team will still practice over the summer and play scrimmages as well. 

“We probably won’t start up again until next August but we are still going to practice through spring and summer so that we can get ready for next season,” Garr said.